A Review by "HelloStuart," The Minty-Fresh Amateur Critic
I've made no secret of how highly I regard Alec Baldwin as a comedic actor, so I'm pleased to see him host SNL for the 14th time. Though Baldwin's handsome-bastard good looks have faded with time his knack for comedy has grown and blossomed quite well, with his tour-de-force performance on "30 Rock" a prime example of his transition. I wish I could say I was as excited about The Jonas Brothers, the bubble-gum eye-candy "rock" band that was booked as tonight's musical guest. I've never had much of a taste for the teenybopper sound, but I'll try with all my might to keep an open mind.
And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:
COLD OPENING: Rep. John Boehner (Dan Aykroyd!) and the rest of the Republican Congressional Leadership (WF, DH, AS, JS, KW) laud their apparent irrelevance in the eyes of President Obama, and consider the bloated economic stimulus bill as a pathway to regaining control of both houses in the 2010 midterms. The rest of the sketch is right-leaning hubris: a debate on the merits of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, followed by a typically ill-conceived, below-the-belt jab at Obama's daughters.
MONOLOGUE: Alec half-jokingly thanks Christian Bale for usurping him of the prestigious honor of having Hollywood's most embarrassing recorded conversation. As he continues to congratulate himself, Baldwin points out his co-star Jack McBrayer in the audience, which in due course forces Donaghy to share the spotlight with Kenneth the Page. As oddly familiar as this monologue felt, it was nice to see arguably the best supporting player on television getting his due.
"The Fourth Jonas Brother": The trio falls out with their long-lost older brother Gary (Alec), whose arrogance and creepy behavior isn't in sync with the JoBros' clean lifestyle. Watching a 50-year-old man walking about in skinny jeans and a pinstripe blazer could've been pathetic and embarrassing, but Alec pulled it off with great levity and self-depreciation.
"The Cougar Den": With Deirdre Nicks out of the picture, the two remaining co-hosts (KW, CW) introduce their new pal Barbara (MW) before getting straight to business- fawning over boys one-third their age and shoehorning themselves into the latest pop culture trends. Tonight's guest is a gay sugar daddy (Alec) that co-authored "Stop That Boy, I Wanna Get On" with the irrepressible Kiki Deamore (Cameron Diaz!). In the calm of the storm is their producer Kenneth (KT), who keeps cutting down the cougars out of exasperation, yet seems aware enough to know that this fad doesn't have legs.
DIGITAL SHORT: Andy learns the secret to the JoBros' success- they used to be an '80s prog-metal band called Property of the Queen, eternally youthful and recycling themselves for a new generation. The sight gag with the VCR was funny, even though rest of the short didn't quite make the target.
"Sir Mix-A-Lot's Photoshop": The booty-obsessed one-hit wonder (KT) advertises his micro-entrepreneurship, a photo development desk that specializes in over-enhancing images of a women's posterior. Some will debate that it's too soon for early '90s nostalgia, and others will argue this sketch was just incredibly insipid, but I feel that both factors were in play here.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Tonight" has a few good licks, but when it comes to power-pop anthems of the same name, I'll take The Raspberries' version instead.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Coming into tonight's news segment, I felt like I could almost predict what Seth and company would lampoon: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("…for Dummies"), the doctor that inseminated the octuplet mom, and Joaquin Phoenix' hazy appearance on Letterman. Lo and behold I got all three correct, except that I picked Hader to play Phoenix, not Suds. With the exception of an uninformed entertainment blogger played with glowering revelry by Mike, tonight's commentaries and walk-ons were time-killing rehashes: financial expert Oscar Rogers (KT) keeps saying "fixed it!" like a deluded mantra, while Angelina Jolie (AE) responds to Seth's crying like a cat to a can opener.
"Vincent Price's Valentine Day's Special": More barely-contained chaos from the B-movie great (BH), as his obsession with the macabre takes a backseat to the stars of yesteryear. Richard Burton (Alec) is losing his mind over wife/nemesis Elizabeth Taylor (CW), Carol Channing (KW) finds a creative use for a severed hand, and Liberace (FA) is a lightning rod for gay jokes.
"High-Profile Project": Carl and Jerry (WF, BH) have a hard time scheduling a meeting with a fellow executive (Alec) due to their various and peculiar idiosyncrasies. Where their first appearance relied heavily on screaming the phrase "fart face" at the top of their lungs, Carl and Jerry are given a smidgen of character development but little else to validate such a pointless encore.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Video Girl" is two parts thrashing and synthetic, a gentle jab at the brothers' many gold-digging groupies.
"Warrior Shake": Two twenty-something brothers (JS, BH) introduce their father (Alec) to a Nintendo Wii game where the wand is used as a surrogate phallus. The end result is an obvious masturbation joke, and the implication of incest doesn't make it any funnier.
"Chewable Pampers": Yep, this ad spoof again.
"Virgania Horsen's Hot-Air Balloon Rides": Yep, this one too. When did tonight's show turn into a repeat?
"Acting Techniques for Actors": Emmy winner/Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin shows you how to perfect the light coughs that often foreshadow a character's death in a bad movie. It's a simple and mostly unassuming concept, pleasant and silly yet boosted by Alec's ersatz studiousness.
With sixteen shows in the can for the season, it seems that we've hit that usual midseason lull though there's still reason for concern. As you might expect, Alec was an affable host that wasn't afraid to take risks even if the idea in mind didn't fully flesh out. Despite my concerns, the Jonas Brothers weren't an affront to the usual mayhem and seemed willing to poke fun of their perfectly choreographed, Disney-centric public image. Ultimately, what hampered tonight's show was the writing; ideas that didn't necessitate a second go-around dominated various sketches, some carbon-copied from past shows while others were merely repackaged is if nobody would notice. It's apparent that after five shows in six weeks –following eleven live broadcasts in two months, no less- the creative talent on the show is flaming out, under-stimulated, and in dire need of a break. Here's hoping the cast and writers have their creative juices flowing again by March 7th.
Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: Everything after the Vincent Price sketch, plus the Joaquin Phoenix commentary on Update.
Next Week: A repeat of last December's Hugh Laurie/Kanye West show. Oh dear. In Three Weeks: No host or musical guest has been confirmed as of this writing.
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